Monday, September 17, 2007

Ramadan in Egypt - I still don't get it

Before I get started let me say that everyone I know who has been to Egypt during Ramadan describes it as a magical time of year. I am experiencing my third Ramadan in Egypt and I can still honestly say -- I just don't get it.

Ramadan is the month in which the Quran was revealed to the Prophet Mohamed (saws). During the month of Ramadan Muslims are required to fast from everything (and I mean everything you can imagine) from just before sunrise to sunset. At sunset, when the Adhan is recited, Muslims break their fast with a meal.

Now, for me personally, I cannot eat a big meal after fasting all day. OK I'll be honest here, I have never actually fasted an entire day without eating or drinking anything. It is just too much for my body to handle; and it has nothing to do with food and eating. I can go without food no problem, but to go without water, I just don't understand how this can be healthy, especially in a desert country where I'm parched all day and can never drink enough water.

Besides fasting during Ramadan, Muslims are supposed to read the entire Quran during the month, give to charity, be kinder to people, pray five times a day especially if they don't pray at other times of the year, and if possible, go to the masjid in the evening for special Ramadan prayers (sorry but I don't remember what this is called).

I have a few points of contention here:

1. Those who fast all day during the month of Ramadan are told that their past sins are forgiven. I think this is wonderful, but I have observed a lot of people fasting who then turn around and sin in some of the most egregious ways.

2. Some who fast do it in such a way that it shouldn't be accepted - they stay up all night and sleep all day - waking up just in time for iftar (breaking of the fast).

3. Those who pray during the night, when prayers are more accepted by God, end up going to work the next day and are lazy in their work responsibilities, making excuses for not being able to work, maybe even calling in sick because they were praying all night.

4. There are legitimate excuses for not fasting: illness, travel, women during their period, etc. While these are legitimate reasons for not fasting, Egyptian society looks at me strangely if I'm drinking a soda or snacking on something. It is not for anyone to judge but God while someone is not fasting, but some people are very judgmental and will be the first to ask "Why aren't you fasting?" Excuse me, but my reasons for not fasting are no one's business but my own. And if you want me to embarass you, I will.

Please don't think I'm a bad person for saying these things. One of the beauties of Islam is that God knows what is in your heart, blessings are based on intention, regardless of the outcome.

If you live in Egypt, please show a little compassion for those who are not fasting because some people don't like to advertise their personal struggles.




Cairogal said...

Great post, Marian. I think you touch on a much bigger issue which is how people use the loopholes of dogma negate all their sins. I find giving TMI (too much information) always knocks people back a peg or two.

Marian said...

Thanks for your comment. I was worried about this post - I even thought about deleting it but then decided to let it be. I think it always comes down to not judging others.

Cairogal said...

I can understand why...people love to quote the Quran in hopes of pointing you in the right direction...showing you the err of your ways. I even got a personal email on our diet blog from a woman quoting the Quran in response to my comment that I wasn't fasting with my husband (I'm not Muslim, but she must have missed that). If we all worried about our own personal spriritual quests and less about the actions of others, the world would be a better place.

Marian said...

you are so right. . .

Anonymous said...

Wow, I just read your post and thought, I've been thinking 75% of what she wrote for YEARS! But no one ever agreed with me or even tried to see my point of view...

Sure, going without food can give the stomach a rest, but no WATER???? How CAN that be healthy? OK I know, Allah protects those who obey Him.... STILL, then why not have old and sick people fast... Allah can protect them TOO!

And what is this scorekeeping that so many Muslims hang on to... Charity given in Ramadan gets you 7x the rewards of charity given in the other 11 months... and one month of fasting wipes out a YEAR of sin???? Oh come ON!

Fast in your sleep... I do that every night! Who said turning the day to night absolves sins! And how about the "cultural Muslims" who fast Ramadan but don't pray the Maghrib prayer when they break their fast???? Or never pray at ALL during the year, or attend the Friday prayer but have their Non-Muslim wives up at the crack of dawn pampering their "pious" Muslim husbands by making eggs and ful, and stuff.... so she can "support them in their piety", one month a year...

And have you ever noticed how many Muslims have health conditions in Ramadan that you never knew about all year long... and of course they need their medication, and taking a pill means they can't go without food and water??? And because they are diabetic they don't fast, but they keep SMOKING??????

The list goes on and on.... I just find the whole thing amazing... Sub'han'allah... I hear in Egypt after the Taraweh prayers they go watch half naked singers on big screen TV's do the hoochie koochie ... Someone told me that some actually go out DRINKING!

OK, I'm going to stop now, istaghfirallah.... But your post just got me on a roll......

Glad to know I"m not the only one...

Anonymous said...

Marian -

I just watched a Bruce clip on MSNVideo. He was live on the Today show. Don't know when. Hope you can find it. It's "Promised Land" from the "Darkness" album. It's a good 5 min clip. ... Brings back memories! Take care!


Nora said...

I am glad you posted it too.
I am not fasting this year either.. and I am not hiding it. I figure I have my reasons to not fast and I am ok with that.
But.. I am judged for not fasting. People always ask why...
I hate the judgemental-ness of it all!!!

Anyway... I think we're supposed to meet.,.. aren't we?

gamal said...

Allah Allah Allah
very nice Post
Eid Moobark ... kol sanah we entom
taybeen... You & Mira

Marian said...

Anonymous - Thanks for your comment. Well, I still support my post even though I know there are a lot of "good" Muslims in Egypt -- ones who "walk the walk" so to speak and accept people as they are -- Gamal's comment below, for example. One of the best examples of a Muslim I've ever met. Mesh'Allah. When my husband told me Gamal posted on my blog I was afraid, then he said that he supports your post -- I felt relieved. Alhamdulillah.

Laura - Yes, I missed Bruce but I am able to watch him on my pc now that I have high speed internet. I downloaded some of his songs and have his cds here. Love. Marian

Gamal - Alfa Shukran for your comment. I was very worried about what you would think. I know you accept people as they are and do not judge others -- one of the great things about you. Mesh'Allah. Kollo Senna Wanta Ta3been.

Marian said...

Nora - You go!!! I want to meet you still - don't know what happened a few weeks ago. I guess we were waiting to hear from each other. Please let's get together soon. I know you pull no punches. Love. Marian